It is time to put on those Dancing Shoes! The vivacious and glamorous Jamaican emcee and producer, Jenny Jenny presents another energetic season of Dancing Dynamites.
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Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie says Jamaica is organising support for St Vincent and the Grenadines, which is being impacted by the erupting La Soufrière volcano.
McKenzie says Jamaica has been in contact with the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, and that the Holness administration is organising logistical and other forms of support to assist the island.
He added that the Government is working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and private sector partners, including the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporter’s Association, to finalise relief efforts.
At the same time, McKenzie indicated that a bank account has been opened to receive donations from the public.
Branch: Oxford Place
Account number: 212387304
McKenzie noted that Jamaica stands with the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines in this difficult period.
Marlene (Milnes-Fenton) O’Brien, the beauty who glided away with the Miss Jamaica title in 1955, passed away last Friday at her home in Fairfield, Connecticut, after a long illness, her daughter Sarah O’Brien, told The Gleaner. She was 83.
The beauty queen, who won the title at 17, went on to live a fulsome life, sprinkled with adventure, and which saw her working at the Jamaica Tourist Board and also with American domestic lifestyle innovator Martha Stewart.
She was gifted with a personal style that was totally unique. She had an incredible flair for life and was one of the original do-it-yourself personalities, her daughter recalled.
“She was a trailblazer in the 1970s as a single parent and female entrepreneur. She was gutsy, ambitious, and driven while being graceful, elegant, and poised. She squeezed out every drop of her remarkable life and lived by her own rules,” Sarah O’Brien, founder and editor of lifestyle blog Connecticut in Style told The Gleaner.
Such was her strength that Sarah O’Brien said her mother was referred to as “a lion”.
“My mother lived a remarkable life. She was a very complex woman because she embodied the qualities of so many different characteristics. She was worldly, glamorous, and stylish, but also courageous, fiercely independent, and resourceful. She had so much energy and passion and lived with inexhaustible joie de vivre. She wasn’t afraid of anyone or anything. People used to call her a lion,” she said.
Marlene was born in the United Kingdom to the late Jack and Ester Milnes-Fenton. Growing up as the daughter of a captain in the Royal Navy, Marlene spent her youth sailing between England and Jamaica. She completed her high school education at an all-girls boarding school in England and immediately entered the beauty pageant circuit. She was crowned Miss Jamaica and reigned from 1955-1956.
LIFE AFTER MISS JAMAICA
Following her reign, she became a New York City socialite and married the late Edward Michael O’Brien, Sr in England at the Cheadle Hulme Church, Great Britain. An exciting European honeymoon saw the couple touring Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and France. They resided in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and together, they had three children – Amanda, Edward, and Sarah. Soon after the birth of her youngest child, Marlene relocated her children to Kingston, Jamaica, where they shared their life with Whylie ‘Chunky’ Lopez Jr of Kingston for over a decade.
When the couple split, their home at 9 Russell Heights, Kingston, was sold to reggae singer, Bob Marley. Marlene moved her family back to the United States and settled in Westport, Connecticut, where her three children attended school. She worked briefly for the Jamaica Tourist Board and later became manager of the Ann Taylor clothing store on Westport’s Main Street, where she leveraged her natural talent for personal styling into a successful career.
Marlene met Martha Stewart at the beginning of her business venture and worked as an integral part of Stewart’s team for many years. She was the food stylist for Martha Stewart’s TV segments and was a significant creative contributor to many of Martha Stewart’s books, especially Martha Stewart Weddings, for which she is credited. After her children were settled in university, she received an offer that would see her return to Jamaica. Marlene became the general manager of Morgan’s Harbour Hotel in Kingston.
Upon returning to the States, she settled in Fairfield, Connecticut, and launched a small catering business. She was the private chef for Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Her reputation as a caterer spread through Fairfield County, Connecticut, and soon, she was catering parties for other celebrities that lived in the area. She retired in 2002 after a successful career in the entertainment and hospitality industry. She enjoyed cooking, sewing, painting, crafting, and was an avid reader. Marlene looked forward to reading the Sunday New York Times in its entirety.
She was a devoted grandmother, and in her retirement, she loved spending time with her grandchildren.
Marlene is survived by her three children, five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. The family will hold a private memorial service in Ocho Rios, where Marlene will forever rest in peace on her beloved island of Jamaica.
Despite launching a broadside at those who have flagrantly flouted safety rules amid a surge of COVID-19 cases, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has held back from imposing further restrictions amid a lingering lockdown debate.
Thirteen of 22 hospitals in Jamaica have exceeded the isolation bed occupancy redline of 84 percent and 12 of the 13 are at 100 percent or greater capacity.
As Jamaica tallied a new one-day record total of 878 infections on Sunday, Holness appeared to offer justification for his restraint.
“My conscience is clear that we have done all that we can in balancing lives and livelihoods. At this stage, the equation and the balance have now shifted to saving lives,” Holness declared at Jamaica House press briefing on Monday.
The prime minister sought to cast Monday afternoon’s arrival of 50,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a light of hope for Jamaica at its “darkest hour”.
Hours after a video of a man identified as Stephen Whitter chastising policemen went viral, Holness warned that the security forces would crackdown on lawbreakers. Whitter was charged on Monday.
“There are those who would wish to challenge the authority of the State in ways that even the most liberal Jamaican would believe is a threat to the rule of law and the order and discipline and indeed the justice of the society,” Holness said.
Health workers first
In keeping with the World Health Organization recommendations, public-health workers, including doctors and nurses, will get the jab first, followed by the police and army.
“The pressures have already started, but I’m committed to ensuring that the distribution of the vaccine does not fall in this category of nationally important goods to be distributed, where people break the line and because of connections, they get,” Holness said.
Just over 17,000 health workers will start receiving the vaccine on Wednesday.
Jamaica will receive another 14,400 AstraZeneca doses through the COVAX Facility next week.
The country is set to receive another 100,000 doses of AstraZeneca from the private sector by month-end.
The vaccination roll-out comes as Jamaica battles to curtail community spread of the virus, which up to Sunday had claimed 454 lives. Total infections have topped 26,900.
Hospitals have been operating under significant pressure as oxygen supplies evaporate.
“The arrival of the vaccines is a good start to what I consider to be the most effective arsenal or effective response to COVID-19 and the virus,” said Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton.
The 73-year-old legend passed away minutes to eight this morning at the Medical Associates Hospital in Kingston, his manager Maxine Stowe confirmed to The Gleaner.
“The family will be putting together a release to officially announce Jah B’s passing,” Stowe said.
The reggae icon suffered what was reported as a minor stroke in 2018 and a subsequent one last year, shortly after his partner of 50 years, Jean Watt, went missing. He had been in rehabilitation, with Stowe constantly by his side.
Bunny Wailer, whose real name is Neville O’Riley Livingston, was an original member of reggae group The Wailers along with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.
A three-time Grammy Award winner, he is considered one of the long-time standard-bearers of reggae music.
Darian Bryan has come a far way from whipping up meals in a humble Clarendon village restaurant to tantalizing the taste buds of power brokers with gourmet creations.
Today, nine years after migrating to the United States, Bryan is the personal chef to a number of NFL and hockey league players, carving out a niche on the food circuit in Buffalo, New York. The dizzying heights represent a remarkable path to success that wasn’t first plotted when he was flipping burgers at Denny’s.
Bryan’s culinary journey began in the seaside village of Salt River. After attending Old Harbour Primary and José Marti High, he worked for two years with Jamaica Broilers before following in his mother’s footsteps to the United States.
Bryan recalled how at age 15 after his mother had left for America, he ran his mother’s bar and cookshop in Salt River while attending school.
“I would cook in the restaurant on Saturdays and Sundays after my mother migrated. My sisters would take care of the business while I am at school, but I was doing all the cooking,” he said.
After migrating to the US in 2012 at age 20, Bryan is now the personal chef to more than 15 NFL and NHL players.
Cooking was always his passion, having learned the art at his mother’s side.
Bryan first followed his dream by enrolling in culinary school at Erie Community College in Buffalo, where he settled after migrating. His next step was studying hospitality management at Buffalo State College, where he was voted most outstanding hospitality student.
After graduating, he honed his skill at a number of top-flight restaurants in the Buffalo area.
His life took a turn when he had a chance meeting with then Buffalo Bills cornerback Vontae Davis.
“I was working at this restaurant and he walked in. I did not know who he was, but I was happy to see another black person,” Bryan told The Gleaner.
“We started talking and he wanted to know who was the chef. I told him me, and he said he wanted me to cook for him, and so began my relationship with him.”
Word about Bryan’s gastronomic chops soon spread like wildfire and led to him becoming the personal chef to Bills running back Stephon Dicks. Soon he had more NFL and hockey stars eating out of his hands.
He caters to several of them outside of New York state when they head south to escape Buffalo’s cold climes in the winter.
Apart from wining and dining sports celebrities, Bryan is also the founder of The Plating Society, which provides pop-up catering – ad hoc settings where people want to meet outside formal restaurants.
Wearing his trademark fedora as he cooks and belts out Bob Marley songs, Bryan loves to provide new and exciting experiences for his guests, cultivating a cult following with large helpings of personality.
He has been a staple on the circuit, appearing at the Erie County Fair, as well as Top Taste Buffalo County Fair. He has won the Buffalo Iron Chef competition and placed second in the national Iron Chef championship.
LOYALTY TO MOTHER
Personal flair is as much a part of his aura as his flavour.
“I never wanted to be the average guy. I wanted to make my mom proud,” said Bryan.
Loyalty to his mother is a theme that runs through his life story.
Althea Allen still beams with pride at the mere mention of her son’s accomplishments.
“I always knew that he would accomplish a lot. Since he was small, he was always experimenting with cooking different dishes, so I am not surprised by what he has achieved,” Allen told The Gleaner.
Known as ‘Tilly’ back in Salt River, the single mom raised Bryan along with her five daughters.
“I always told him that he would do good. He has accomplished much, but he still has heights to climb,” she said.
The other lesson Allen said she taught Bryan was never to forget his roots.
Jessica Bryan, Darian’s wife, said that his success can be attributed to his hard work, drive, and his personality.
Mrs. Bryan, who handles the marketing, branding, and financials for the business, said that her husband’s easy-going, outgoing personality contributes handily to his magnetic appeal.
“I love working with him. His food is delicious. He has taught me about herbs and spices and how to use them to enhance meals. He has opened up a whole new world of foods to me, an American girl who existed on pizza and such,” she said.
A mother of two – Darian Jr and Nina –Mrs. Bryan said they will be opening their own Plating Society restaurant in May in the Buffalo area.
Chef Bryan urges Jamaican youth at home or in the diaspora to stay grounded. His advice to them is simple yet profound: Have a big vision, write down your goals, and plug away at them.
He encourages young people to find something they love doing and spend their lives going after it.
“I have many young people calling me asking about being a chef because it looks cool. The question I ask is, do you love cooking? If you don’t, then look for something you love doing,” Bryan told The Gleaner.
“Cooking is hard, and you must love doing it, or else you are going to move on when it gets tough.”
In 1964, when the Jamaica Tourist Board and record label owner and producer Edward Seaga arranged for band-leader, Byron Lee, to take a ska group to the New York World’s Fair to showcase Jamaica and its music, band manager Ronnie Nasralla was very much a part of this historic delegation. A fantastic dancer, Nasralla is even credited with helping to teach the world how to ska. At the fair, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires worked their own set and was also backing Prince Buster, Eric Morris, and Peter Tosh. Reports from that era say they were all a sensation at the fair.
Nasralla, the supreme showman, an accomplished athlete, and advertiser, passed away peacefully on Wednesday at his home in Atlanta, Georgia. He is remembered as the “paint on the wall”.
“Ronnie gives the wall its colour,” keyboardist and music director for Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, Neville Hinds, told The Gleaner. “He was with the band from the early days and he and Byron were a force. Ronnie was managing Toots and the Maytals, the Blues Buster, as well as Byron Lee and the Dragoniares. He had a record label in the 60s, BMN, which did a lot of early work with Toots and the Maytals. Never You Change, the big festival song Bam Bam and Daddy were all released on Ronnie’s label,” Hinds recalled.
The musician said there were “so many stories” about Nasralla, the Jamaican of Lebanese descent (his father was Lebanese and his mother Jamaican) who managed and promoted Byron Lee and the Dragonaires for 35 years. Nasralla was responsible for helping to take the band’s name across the globe and even managed to get them a spot in the first-ever James Bond flick, Dr. No (1962) which was filmed in Jamaica. Byron Lee and the Dragonaires appeared in the film and performed most of the music on the later soundtrack album. Nasralla himself is also in the movie and is seen dancing in the Port Royal bar scene. Hinds also mentioned Nasralla’s role in the annual charity event, Nuggets for the Needy. “Byron Lee and the Dragonaires was an integral part of that for years,” he said.
Singer, Tony Gregory, paid tribute to Nasralla who he called a gentle giant. “Ronnie was instrumental in me joining Byron Lee and the Dragonaires in 1960. He was the band manager and Byron’s associate in many areas. They were a part of that St George’s College alumni. And, one thing about Ronnie, he was an incredible dancer,” Gregory, who said he last saw him in 2010, told The Gleaner.
Writer and music industry guru, Dave Rodney, knew Nasralla quite well. “I actually heard about Ronnie before I met him, from his packaging of ‘Bubbling Brown Sugar’ shows at Half-Way Tree’s famous Glass Bucket Club with Kingston’s beautiful jet-set with Evelyn Andrade and Judy Willoughby. We crossed paths many years later while he was an advertising executive and his passion for everything he touched was unrelenting. His kindness too was legendary. He was a multi-talented actor in LTM pantomimes, a dancer, a founding member of Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, and pioneer of the first fashion model contest. Jamaica, and especially entertainment, owes him a debt of gratitude,” Rodney told The Gleaner.
They promised a bellyful of laughter and that is exactly what viewers got as they tuned into the inaugural virtual staging of Ity and Fancy Cat’s annual ‘Christmas Comedy Cook-up’. Forced to go online this year as a result of the prolonged ban on entertainment events, the show still saw an envious line-up of top-class comedic acts from home and abroad. In fact, had it not been for the jokes from the performers about adjusting to the online space, viewers would have completely forgotten that they were not physically present at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.
The show, which was aired on its usual December 26 date, saw performances from seasoned comedians such as Leighton Smith, Kathy ‘Tan Deh Deh’ Grant, Dahlia Harris, Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis and Christopher ‘Johnny’ Daley, among others. Opening the night’s jam-packed itinerary was Leighton Smith. With his usual laid-back, unassuming yet clinically precise delivery, Smith no doubt had the virtual viewing land in tears as he served up one sizzling joke after the other. Not one punchline was missed as the veteran comedian made light of the COVID-19 situation and its effect on the entertainment industry.
“Thank God dis yah show keep. I called Ity and I said to him, ‘Yuh affi keep dis, innu, because a it mi plan fi use pay me rent, it affi keep,’” he said, highlighting how hard the sector shutdown has been for creatives like himself. “Can you imagine if technology never out and COVID come in, anuh the virus woulda kill we innu, just the fact dat yuh nah see nobody, hear from nobody alone woulda kill we. Unuh see how me dress up nice and come yah, a because mi know me a go live and thing, and me feel good and new.”
Still on the topic of COVID-19, Smith sought to reassure viewers that the virus’ reign of terror must come to an end eventually. “Me study COVID and I’m here to tell the world why dem nuffi be afraid of it. Anything make a China, it nuh last long. And now that COVID come from China, it nah go last long,” he said, while still imploring persons to be careful not to catch it. “But mi a beg unu, try nuh ketch it; for if yuh ketch it, yuh know say yuh nah go last long, either,” he joked.
There were no stones left unturned as each performer creatively turned the harsh realities of life with COVID-19 into comedic relief. From the struggles of being locked in a house with one’s kids for almost a year to the heartaches of online schooling, every COVID-19 issue was made light of. One woman who must have had viewers rolling on the floors of their bedrooms or living rooms was Kathy ‘Tan Deh Deh’ Grant. The comedian, who doubles as a teacher, joked about parents now having to take on the role of teachers as they supervise their children in online school. “Having the kids at home stress unu, nuh true? Mi nuh wah school open back. Unu fi dead a unu yard because unu have one a unu yard and it a stress unu out so, can you imagine me wid 45 a fi unu pickney in front a me? Stress me out. Dem fi stay home because unu know say unu nuh appreciate teachers,” she said. “When Teachers’ Day come, why we can’t get a Range Rover? What is wrong wid a likkle Range Rover or an inverter AC? Unu affi do better because unu nuh see weh unu a go chu? Unu need fi take care a teachers more.” The jokes kept coming as Grant delivered a superb set that went by so quickly, she didn’t even realise when her time was up. Had it been an in-person event, I am sure she would have been called back on stage to give an encore performance.
Other noteworthy performances came from Canadian comedian Jay Martin and American comedienne Gina Brillione. Seasoned local acts Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis and Christopher ‘Johnny’ Daley also turned in good performances. Ellis took viewers on a trip down memory lane as he reminisced on the entertainment days of yesteryears, highlighting the differences between then and now, and why the music of the past still lives on. Daley, who was the evening’s closing act, said COVID taught him a lot and urged viewers not to take the frustrations of 2020 into the new year.
Police authorities in the United States are trying to locate the driver of a pick-up truck that was involved in a hit-and-run crash that claimed the lives of a Jamaican couple in Queens, New York on New Year’s Day.
The deceased are 57-year-old Donovan Gibbon and 60-year-old Thelma Reid, both of Queens.
They were married in 2013 and worked at LSG Sky Chef’s catering company at John F Kennedy Airport, New York Daily News reported.
It is alleged that on Friday, January 1, at about 5 am, Gibbon and Reid were in a blue Nissan Rogue when a grey Dodge Ram T-boned them in Far Rockaway.
Both Reid, who was driving, and Gibbon, in the passenger seat, were pinned down in the sedan, reports further stated.
The truck’s driver managed to get out of the mangled wreck, leaving two passengers behind.
Medics later arrived at the scene and found the Jamaican couple unconscious. They were rushed to the hospital, where they died.
One of the injured men in the truck was hospitalized in stable condition, while another has been taken into custody after arguing with the police, the New York Times indicated.